3rd Jan 2024 -

The UK winter season means slippery pathways, driveways and steps. Keeping these areas free of ice and potential snow build-up is important for preventing falls and injuries. Using rock salt and grit salt is an effective way to melt ice and give traction on slick surfaces. Although similar, rock salt and grit salt have some key differences when it comes to usage and effectiveness in certain temperatures.

For this feature, we explain what exactly rock salt and grit salt are and guide you on how you can utilise them safely and effectively around your property. We also provide tips on application techniques, including the ideal times to apply the salts. 

What is the difference between rock salt and grit salt?

Rock salt, also known as halite, is composed of sodium chloride. It works by lowering the freezing point of water, causing ice and snow to melt when it comes into contact with it. Rock salt is most effective above 15°F (-9°C). The salt dissolves when applied, spreading into cracks and crevices to break up ice and snow build-up. A downside is that it can damage vegetation, concrete and metal over time.

Grit salt contains rock salt mixed with an abrasive agent like sand or cinders. The grit gives traction and makes surfaces less slick in addition to melting some ice and snow. Grit salt works at much lower temperatures than regular rock salt, effective at -20°F (-29°C).

However, it does not dissolve or spread as well as pure rock salt. The abrasive can help break through thick ice layers. Grit salt is less harmful to vegetation and surfaces than soluble salts. Proper cleanup is still needed once the ice melts to prevent grit accumulation and residue stains.

The key difference is that rock salt provides superior ice melting. On the other hand, grit salt improves traction and works in more extreme cold at the expense of dissolving and spreading across surfaces as effectively.

Benefits of rock salt and grit salt

When it comes to using rock salt and grit salt, there are key best practices to follow. The following offers practical advice for effectively administering rock salt and grit salt in various areas around your property.

BenefitsKey areas
Effective melting at lower temperatures: Rock salt is known for its effectiveness in melting ice even at lower temperatures. It works by lowering the freezing point of water, facilitating the melting process.Driveways: Rock salt is highly effective for tarmac on driveways, where quick and thorough melting is essential for creating a safe passage.
Readily available and cost-effective: One of the major advantages is its widespread availability and cost-effectiveness. It can be easily obtained, which makes it a practical choice for homeowners.Path and entryways: Ideal for pathways leading to the entrance of the home. It ensures you have a safe and accessible route for people entering and leaving your property.
Quick-acting for immediate results: Rock salt works relatively quickly. On average, you can expect ice to start melting after 15-20 minutes. This makes it a valuable asset when quick de-icing is necessary.Parking areas and garages: Applying rock salt in these areas helps prevent the formation of ice patches that can pose challenges when parking or moving vehicles.
Traction on icy surfaces: Grit salt provides exceptional traction on icy surfaces. This is crucial for preventing slips and falls, especially in areas with heavy foot traffic.Steps and ramps: Grit salt is highly recommended for steps and staircases where slipping can prove to be dangerous. Also, it is especially useful on ramps where the risk of sliding is higher.

A blend of rock salt grit combines some benefits of both. This can be optimal for large areas that need ice clearing and improved footing, such as a long driveway or parking area. Determine typical winter temperatures and the primary goal - ice melting vs traction - to choose the best deicer for specific home areas. 

How to apply rock salt or grit salt

In the chilly winter months, learning how to apply rock salt and grit salt properly is key to maintaining safe and accessible spaces around your home. This step-by-step guide will equip you with the knowledge and techniques needed to navigate icy conditions. 

Step 1 - Buy tools and materials

Rock salt or grit saltProtective gloves
Safety gogglesShovel

Step 2 - Evaluate the area

Identify trouble spots such as walkways, driveways and entry points. Prioritise areas with poor drainage or where ice tends to accumulate.

Step 3 - Prepare the salt

If you are using a spreader for large areas, be sure to adjust the settings according to product recommendations. Ensure the right amount of salt is loaded for even coverage. Per square metre, you should aim to use 10-15 grams. 

Step 4 - Start the application

You should begin at entry points and work outward. Overlap each pass slightly to avoid missed spots. Be sure to maintain a steady pace for consistent distribution.

Step 5 - Use a spreader

Following on from step 3, double-check that the spreader settings are correct based on the area's size and salt type. Walk at a moderate pace to prevent over-application and achieve uniform coverage.

Step 6 - Apply in strips or rows

For manual application, you need to distribute salt in organised strips or rows. Ensure an even layer and specifically focus on high-traffic zones. 

Step 7 - Focus on trouble spots

You should also concentrate efforts on areas prone to icing, such as shaded spots. Apply additional salt if needed to address specific concerns.

Step 8 - Apply grit salt for traction

Choose targeted areas for grit salt application, such as steps or ramps and slopes. This enhances traction and minimises slip hazards.

Step 9 - Sweep any excess salt

If applying manually, use a broom or brush to sweep excess salt from non-essential surfaces. As a result, this minimises environmental impact. Leaving excess rock or grit salt can harm wildlife and kill plants. 

Step 10 - Monitor and reapply

Make sure you regularly inspect treated areas. Reapply salt as necessary, especially after additional snowfall or when icy conditions persist. Generally, you should aim to reapply every 3-4 weeks or after significant weather events.

Brown vs white rock salt: Which one is best?

The primary difference between white rock salt and brown rock salt lies in their impurities and mineral content. These aspects can affect their performance in certain conditions.

White rock salt

  • Purity: White rock saltis typically more refined and contains fewer impurities compared to brown rock salt.
  • Appearance: It has a cleaner, more uniform appearance, making it aesthetically pleasing.
  • Performance: White rock salt is often preferred for de-icing purposes as it can be more effective at lower temperatures. It works well as a general de-icing salt and is commonly used as road grit, in addition to pathways and driveways.

Brown rock salt

  • Impurities: Also known as red salt, brown rock salt contains more impurities and minerals. This can include clay and other natural elements.
  • Appearance: It has a rougher, less refined appearance, and its colour comes from these natural impurities.
  • Performance: While brown rock salt may not be as visually appealing, it can be more cost-effective. It may also provide additional traction due to its coarser texture, making it suitable for areas where traction is a primary concern. 

Can you use rock or gritting salt for garden weeds?

Gritting salt or rock salt for weeds is sometimes used as an alternative weed control method. Salt can damage and dehydrate emerging weeds through direct contact or in soil. This stresses and kills some common garden weeds. However, this approach comes with risks and uncertainties.

Negatives and potential risks

  • Salt will harm valued plants and lawns as well as weeds if applied to general areas. Precise spot treatment is essential.
  • The buildup of salt in the soil makes it difficult for any future plants or crops to grow and thrive after application.
  • Rain or watering can spread salt to places beyond intended weeds, expanding soil contamination.
  • It is not as effective on established or salt-tolerant perennial weeds - the roots adapt better than seedlings. 
  • Also, it can be very tricky to judge the appropriate dosage for various weeds without carefully controlled experiments.

Where to store rock or grit salt 

Rock salt and grit salt are useful materials to have on hand for winter weather. But proper storage is important to keep them in top-notch condition. Below, we provide top tips on the ideal locations and containers to store these salts.

Storage locations

  • Grit bin: A grit bin ensures easy accessibility, timely application and protection from the elements. Be sure to prevent contaminating the grit salt bin with non-de-icing materials to maintain the rock salt grit. 
  • Garage or shed: A garage or garden shed is ideal, as it keeps the salt bags up off damp floor environments and protects from precipitation. Be sure the structure has adequate ventilation.
  • Basement: Storing in an unfinished basement is suitable, provided cement floors stay dry. Place the pallet down first before stacking salt bags. Avoid excessive basement humidity.
  • Closet or storage room: An indoor closet or multi-use storage room works if weather-tight. Be sure not to store in spaces where humidity is uncontrolled.

Storage tips

  • Place bags on pallets: Stack every bag of salt atop a wooden pallet or shelf. It prevents moisture absorption from concrete floors and avoids spills mixing with dirt.
  • Tote containers: For bulk salt storage, use plastic totes with sealable lids to contain salt in usable batches while keeping moisture out.
  • Waterproof covering: Adding a waterproof tarp above and around salt storage spaces provides an extra barrier if exposed to a roof leak or flooding.
  • Reseal partially used bags: Particularly for large bags of salt, fold over the top of opened bags before re-closing tightly with clasps or ties. This prevents air exposure and humidity from ruining the remaining product.

Superb rock and grit salt for de-icing your home

Shop top-quality rock salt and grit salt materials tailored to meet the winter maintenance needs of residential spaces. Our meticulously sourced rock salt ensures a safer and more accessible environment, effectively melting ice on driveways, pathways and more. Plus, our snow grit materials provide enhanced traction, making them ideal for steps, ramps and high-traffic areas. 

We strive for excellence in both product quality and customer service. Trade customers will benefit from opening trade accounts with us. You experience a seamless procurement process, access competitive trade prices on all products and fast UK delivery.

From salt for gritting roads to driveway salt, we offer reliable solutions that empower you to navigate winter with confidence. Sign up for a trade account now or contact us to learn more.

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